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A Follow-Up Blog

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I like to nerd out and cite to studies about how to train your body for best results. Every now and then, however, we need to check in with what we think we know because new research can sometimes suggest we need to reconsider our previous beliefs. New research also can help test theories and provide some empirical data to confirm anecdotal observations. In the spirit of embracing science and fact-based training, it’s time to do some revisiting. Here are some updates on past blog topics!

Running and Your Knees

In January, I wrote that running might actually help to prevent knee pain and that running stimulates the proteins that strengthen your knee cartilage. Apparently, I scooped Runner’s World. In their February issue, Runner’s World reported on a new, recent study that confirmed that runners are, indeed, less likely to suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee.

Why is this study so important in the debate about running and knee osteoarthritis? Well, this study successfully controlled for one of the potential weaknesses of earlier studies. Previous research only had included running club members and possibly only healthy runners; the authors of the new study rightly reasoned that those already suffering from intrusive activity-related knee pain might have stopped running altogether, would not have joined a running club, and thus would not have been included in previous studies. This new report based on data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative was a long-term study that did not just include runners. It also assessed peoples’ fitness activities throughout their lives.

Your knees actually love running.

It turns out that those who ran at any previous point in their lives still benefited from running’s knee-strengthening effects even if they were no longer pursuing the sport. Importantly, this was not merely one’s perception of knee pain. People who had been, or currently were, runners exhibited less evidence of osteoarthritis in their knees.

The takeaway: If you are worried that running will destroy your knees, don’t be. For the Runner’s World story and the link to the full study, follow this link:’s%20World

Your Heels –– Keep on Flicking

About a year ago, I suggested that if you were interested in increasing your speed, you should try to more consciously flick your heels as you run. This helps to increase cadence and stride length without falling into the potential pitfalls associated with over striding –– increased vertical displacement leading to increased shock.

This fall, Sean Hartnett, writing for Track & Field News, persuasively demonstrated that one source of the success of the great distance runner Kenenisa Bekele is his ability to generate great power through a high cadence and long stride length. This generation of power depends on an extreme heel flick in which the trail-leg foot is fully inverted 180 degrees from the running surface. To get an idea of what this feels like, you might try standing up, kicking back, and trying to orient the bottom of your foot to face the ceiling. It’s very tough. You might, in fact, feels stress in your quads and Achilles.

Even Bekele’s competitors are impressed by his heel flick.

Most runners can manage to invert 140-150 degrees. Bekele can invert at 180 degrees for a full 10,000 meters. This is one reason why he is the current world record holder in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter track events.

It turns out that a 180-degree inversion will generate 50 percent more torque to the forward leg whip of the subsequent stride. Bekele simply generates more power than anyone else. It is also the reason that he has raced infrequently during the last several years. While his extreme heel flick has allowed Bekele to outpower every other distance runner on the planet, the technique has put too much stress on his Achilles tendon.

What can we learn from this? If you want to get faster, you need to keep flicking those heels. You will also need to be always working on keeping your calf muscles and Achilles tendons limber. Always be strengthening and massaging. For the full article, check out this link:

Any running topics that you feel need to be revisited? Are there any topics in which you feel conventional wisdom has undergone a dramatic change? (Dynamic versus static stretching, perhaps) Please make some suggestions in the comments.

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